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How to Ace Your Behavioral Interview

If you want to outshine the competition and prove that you are the best candidate for the job, use these tips to prepare for your next behavioral interview.

It's important to practice and prepare for every step of the hiring process, but the behavioral interview requires significant thought and effort before you are fully ready. Behavioral interview questions are focused on situations you have dealt with in past jobs, and how you turned them from negative to positive. This requires that you come prepared to the interview with relevant examples of when you have been successful in difficult situations. These are not questions you can answer off the top of your head.

During a behavioral interview, recruiters are looking at your past behavior to determine how you will act in the future on the job. Many interviewers believe that these questions are the best indicator of how you will handle conflict and confrontation in difficult situations. This principle highlights the importance of this interview and how you must be ready to ace it. In order to help you do so, we've come up with several tips that will help you prepare.

5 Steps to Help You Ace Your Behavioral Interview

1. Understand the Difference Between Behavioral Questions and Traditional Questions

Behavioral questions and traditional questions are very different, and while both are common in interviews, many hiring managers are turning to behavioral questions more often. Traditional questions are generally along these lines:

•What is your educational background?
•Why did you leave your last job?•Why do you have a gap in your resume?

These are all typically straightforward questions to answer, while behavioral questions require a little bit of critical thinking and application. Behavioral questions may cover topics like these:

•Tell us about a time you wish you'd handled a difficult situation with a colleague differently.
•Describe a time when your team was under a lot of pressure and how you got through it.
•How do you motivate others in a business setting? Give us an example.

These questions require you to come prepared with relevant examples of times you have been successful in dealing with difficult situations in previous jobs.

2. Prepare Examples That Are Relevant to the Job Description

If you are applying for a job as a project manager, leadership examples may be more relevant than times when you have worked independently. Read through the job description before your interview, and use examples from your past that highlight the soft skills the company is looking for in an applicant. Determine if this is an entry level position that focuses on teamwork and communication or one that wants more refined skills like leadership and problem solving.

Go through each job or volunteer experience you've had, and think of examples that might fit a behavioral question. Try to avoid examples in your personal life unless they are specifically asked for, rather relying on the things you've done in your professional life.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Admit Failure

While you want your answers to be focused on the good things you've done, sometimes it's okay to admit that there were times you didn't handle things well. In fact, you can anticipate a question during most behavioral interviews about one of these times. Don't dwell on the problem or the failure; rather, explain the situation and quickly show how you learned and grew from it.

4. Your Body Language Speaks Loudly

Non-verbal cues are very important during a behavioral interview. Do you come across as confident and charming, or arrogant and uninterested? Sit up straight during the interview and lean forward toward the person who is talking to you. If you use hand gestures when speaking, keep them to a minimum. You want the focus to stay on what you are saying rather than how you are saying it.

How you act from the second you enter the building to the time you walk out is important. Be polite and courteous to everyone you meet, whether it's the janitor in the elevator or the hiring manager's secretary. You never know who is watching.

5. Practice Giving Your Best Examples

Once you've narrowed down a few times from your past when you successfully settled a conflict or handled a tough situation, take the time to practice giving these examples in several different ways. Start by addressing the task or the situation you were faced with, describe the actions you took to fix it, and explain the result you got from your efforts. Give a mock interview with a friend or mentor who you trust to give you constructive feedback. Even if the example sounds great in your head, you may not be ready to give it without a little bit of practice and fine-tuning.

With these tips and just a little bit of preparation and practice, you are prepared to ace your behavioral interview and take it to the next level — getting the job.

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